Your Grateful Nation
Former Navy Seal Rob O’Neill comes to the South Bay with an important message about supporting our Tier 1 Special Ops veterans.
EDITED BY DARREN ELMS
We all remember where we were on 9/11 and years later, when details about bin Laden’s demise were released. These profound moments changed our country and our lives forever. The men involved in Tier 1 Special Ops are, bar none, extraordinary humans with incredible brains and abilities.
Rob O’Neill, the man who fired the gun that killed bin Laden, is one of those amazing soldiers. On July 27 he will be in Manhattan Beach as part of a fundraising effort for Your Grateful Nation (YGN), an organization that seeks to help Tier 1 veterans transition from the military to a successful civilian life.
The July event is three-part: a private lunch with O’Neill and Rob Clapper, executive director of YGN, at The Strand House; a gala at Manhattan Country Club; and a signing of O’Neill’s new book, The Operator.
We asked both Rob and Rob to share with us more about YGN and why this mission deserves our respect and attention.
What inspired the creation of YGN?
ROB CLAPPER: After the raid that ended Osama bin Laden’s life, members of SEAL Team Six were invited to a dinner hosted by very engaged supporters at a private residence in Washington, D.C. The conversation quickly turned to “What’s next?” The silence and concerned look on the faces of some of the most decorated war heroes spoke volumes. These men commented that they would rather pick up a weapon and go back into combat than sit in an interview and try to break into the corporate world.
As the conversation flowed, it was apparent that these men didn’t understand the skills they learned in the military and on the battlefield—leading groups of men into extremely dangerous situations, not succumbing to the pressures of intensely high-stress environments, planning every move in a concise manner, and moving and leading with purpose—could translate perfectly into corporate America.
They also mentioned that the military does not have a robust transition process that prepares you for life outside the military. This was eye-opening, and because of that night the idea to create an organization that focuses solely on these Tier 1 heroes when they transition out—many without pensions—was born.
So there is no guarantee a high-level military veteran can easily find work after their service?
RC: It is a myth that just because they bear the name of Navy SEAL, Green Beret, MARSOC, etc., they can walk into any company and get hired. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. YGN also engages and teaches companies the value of these incredible veterans and the impact they will immediately make to their organization. The learning curve with our candidates is not as steep because adaptability is in their DNA.
Rob, you’re also a veteran?
RC: I retired as a major in the Army and went through a tough transition myself, which is why our mission is so near and dear to my heart. I was lucky enough to have a mentor—someone who went through the same thing—there for me to help me through the process and ultimately helped me land my first job.
Your Grateful Nation is based in Virginia, but I understand you have some deep ties to Manhattan Beach and the South Bay. I’ve heard it mentioned that Manhattan Beach is “the West Coast home of YGN.”
How did that come to be?
RC: YGN was selected as a 2016 Military Non-Profit Partner by FOX Sports. FOX Sports senior management, led by president Eric Shanks, became a big advocate and supporter of our mission. The support and publicity we received from FOX Sports was instrumental in raising awareness of YGN throughout the country.
On the heels of this significant partnership, YGN decided to launch an inaugural L.A.-based fundraising event in 2016. Outreach and conversations were had with venues and community leaders throughout Los Angeles. The city that stood out by far was Manhattan Beach. Several of the other South Bay cities also showed considerable support.
Following that event, YGN Los Angeles-based board member Dan Moschella was invited to speak to the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club. From there the YGN Manhattan Beach and South Bay love affair took a life of its own. Many fantastic friendships and key relationships have been formed.
How does one get information on the upcoming 2017 events?
RC: Tickets are still available. For information you can visit yourgratefulnation.org or call 310-717-6466.
Rob O’Neill, congrats on your recent book. Tell us a little about the process of writing that memoir and what you hope to relay to your readers.
ROB O’NEILL: I wasn’t really thinking about doing a book until a little over a year ago, when close friends and family convinced me that my 12 years in combat as a SEAL was a story worth telling.
There are so many great books out that capture certain missions—like Lone Survivor and others. But I wanted to focus on something different, broader than any one mission—the life of a SEAL as reflected in the career of one warrior.
Through The Operator, I wanted readers to really understand the mindset, the humanity, the humor—essentially the character of all SEALs. These are ordinary guys who are able to do extraordinary things because they live and breathe two words: Never Quit.
Did you know what life awaited you after joining the Navy?
RO: I was a guy from Montana who didn’t know how to swim when I joined the Navy. I thought I’d complete my service, go back to Butte, work in the mines and have some funny stories to tell my buddies.
But Never Quit drove our SEAL team success and my 400-mission career—whether it was getting through BUD/S training, being part of the Marcus Luttrell rescue, the Captain Phillips mission or the bin Laden raid that ultimately led to killing the world’s most wanted terrorist.
I was also able to collaborate with a great writer, Tom Shroder, who shared with me the same commitment to conveying the life of a SEAL operator in the most authentic way. There are a ton of great stories in the book, and I’m thrilled with the positive reviews and feedback. I›m really proud of what we were able to achieve with the book.